Children of Bond - Remo: Unarmed and Dangerous

remo williuams bond
Remo: Unarmed and Dangerous (rather optimistically titled Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins in the United States) is a 1985 action adventure film based on The Destroyer pulp paperback series created by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir and was directed by James Bond veteran Guy Hamilton. The film was intended as the first entry in a brand new action franchise featuring the character of Remo but ultimately met with a disappointingly modest critical and box-office reception that scuppered any possibility of a sequel and a proposed Bond style series. We begin with junk food loving New York City policeman Sam Makin (Fred Ward) being mugged by three men and - after having his car shoved into the river and being left for dead - waking up in hospital where he is surgically altered to look different and told by shady secret service bods Smith (Wilford Brimley) and MacCleary (JA Preston) that his name is now Remo Williams, his death has been faked and he has been recruited into a top secret government agency known as C.U.R.E. And if that wasn't bad enough they've shaved his eighties mustache off too.
Smith tells Remo it has now become annoyingly difficult to prosecute powerful people such as corrupt politicians, crooked military officers and dubious CEOs and his job will be to target these apparent untouchables. "All I can promise you," says MacLeary. "Is terror for breakfast, pressure for lunch, and aggravation for sleep. Your vacations will be two minutes when you're not looking over your shoulder, and if you live to draw a pension, it'll be a miracle." In order to become a new top secret super assassin and investigate a corrupt weapons procurement program within the US Army though, Remo must first be trained - a task that falls to the eccentric and elderly Chiun (Joel Grey) who is a Korean master of an incredible martial art known as "Sinanju" and will impart to Remo the secrets of dodging bullets at point blank range, running on water and much more besides...
A so-so James Bondish variant with strong Eastern influences that were possibly slightly ahead of their time given that Hollywood's interest in Hong Kong cinema and directors had yet to impact itself, Remo: Unarmed and Dangerous is decent fun at times with its tongue mostly planted firmly in its cheek for much of its running time. One of the most enjoyable and amusing aspects to the film - and one that may well have partly influenced similar martial arts guru characters in subsequent pictures like Mystery Men and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill series - is Joel Grey's Chiun and his training scenes and relationship with Remo. Chiun is a knowing riff on the stereotypical white-haired wise mentor of countless Hong Kong kung fu films and played with some relish by Grey as he dispenses numerous nuggets of cod mystical wisdom and frequently insults Remo as often as possible. "Pitiful," says Chiun when he evaluates his new student. "I can see the deadly hamburger has done its evil work. We must sweat the poison from your body and rebuild. You move like a baboon...with two clubbed feet!" Grey is obviously not Asian in real life and plays the role in heavy make-up, sometimes, it has to be said, unavoidably veering somewhat into Benny Hill territory with his comedy Oriental accent.
remo williams bond

Remo is - for the purposes of a test - initially told rather sneakily that Chiun is his first target for assassination but when he attempts to shoot him he quickly learns that the little old man makes a pesky target even when you are standing right in front of him. This is a ludicrously daft but fun scene as Chiun anticipates Remo's tiniest muscle movements and avoids the trajectory of each bullet by simply moving slightly to one side. After a demonstration of Sinanju - "Karate, Kung Fu, Ninjitsu, they are but shadows. Sinanju is the Sun!" - leaves Remo with bruised pride and paralyzed stomach muscles he decides he should probably listen to his charming new geriatric instructor despite being bombarded with lines like "I called you a clumsy oaf! You drive like a monkey in heat!" Chiun and Remo train together in a big loft apartment that is frequently turned into an elaborate obstacle course as Chiun insults Remo, lectures him on the perils of junk food and shares even more of his own particular pearls of wisdom. "The trained mind does not need a watch. Watches are a confidence trick invented by the Swiss!" Although the sequences between Chiun and Remo are good fun at times and supply a few laughs the film perhaps takes too long to move on from this and provide any large scale action for our hero to indulge in. Remo: Unarmed and Dangerous ultimately lacks the lavish production values of the Bond series then being produced by Cubby Broccoli and the fireworks and energy of a bona-fide Hong Kong actioner.
The set-pieces, when they do finally arrive, are competently handled by director Guy Hamilton, who was probably a bit past his prime by then but did once direct Goldfinger - one of the most famous and enduring pop culture comic book adventure films ever made - and a couple of Roger Moore entries in the seventies. Remo hangs from a ferris wheel and (in a very well-staged sequence) an under renovation Statue of Liberty and generally spends a lot of time climbing high up on construction sites, possibly anticipating similar moments in the likes of Casino Royale and Jet Li's Black Mask. One of the best set-pieces - and the film could have done with much more of this - comes when Remo's surreptitious investigations into a facility lead him to have to pit his wits against a pack of super intelligent dogs, three Doberman Pinschers trained by the circus to walk tightropes!
The film perhaps lacks decent villains and a strong supporting cast but Charles Cioffi is ok as the dubious Grove and Captain Janeway, I mean Kate Mulgrew also appears as Major Fleming, the officer is in charge of expenditures in this secret organisation - which interestingly seems to have a rudimentary form of the internet even though this is 1985. As Remo, Fred Ward is not the most obvious actor in the world to cast as the leading man in a proposed new Bond type franchise and is not exactly Sean Connery but he brings a vague world-weariness and wry self-deprecation to the part that is quite enjoyable on occasion. "Do you always talk like a Chinese fortune cookie?" says Remo to Chiun. The lack of big names in the cast suggests perhaps that Remo didn't have the largest budget ever at its disposal. On the whole this is not bad for a few laughs and quite good fun at times but nothing terribly special. Despite its evident flaws, anyone with a weakness for eighties action adventure films or familiar with the books might well want to take a peek.

- Jake

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